The education reporter covers a critical, high-profile beat for the Observer – one that demands competitive, breaking news coverage as well as exclusive, high-end enterprise that helps our community understand and make sense of the educational challenges in this rapidly growing city.
The beat focuses on K-12 education – including traditional public schools, private schools and expanding charter schools – but also incorporates some coverage of the region’s colleges and universities.
A central part of the beat is Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, one of America's 20 largest public school systems. The district encompasses a mix of urban, suburban and rural neighborhoods and a racially and economically diverse student body. Despite flattening enrollment and increasing competition, the district serves about three-quarters of the county's school-age children.
CMS has played a significant role in the nation's educational history, from its landmark desegregation efforts in the 1970s to its rapid resegregation in the early 2000s. Many who come here from other cities remark on how intensely engaged the Charlotte community is in education. The Observer has build a reputation as the prime source for news and analysis of education issues.
The beat involves breaking news, working sources, pouring through public databases, uncovering trends and talking to real people. The Observer’s education reporter also will work closely with our civic accountability reporters and other McClatchy education reporters in the Carolinas.
This beat has a major accountability component, through public records requests, data analysis and detailed sourcing and reporting. Stories need to go beyond press releases and school board meetings to explain to readers what is driving the decisions that affect students.
The job requires the ability to understand our audience and frame stories in a way that highlights what is most important and essential to them. This reporter needs to be adept at using tools such as analytics and social media to help understand the topics that appeal to our readers.
Duties and responsibilities:
- Regularly write news and enterprise stories that are clear, accurate, engaging and of high interest and relevance to local readers.
- Develop sources that go beyond government and company officials and include regular people who will be impacted by these decisions.
- Be able to juggle daily, short-term enterprise and long-term enterprise stories.
- Work with editors to assure that stories are complete, fair and in context.
- Handle deadline demands on breaking news when appropriate.
- Use audience metrics to determine which stories are resonating with readers and which are not. Work with editors to mine this data for takeaways about how we can build our audience.
- Produce basic video and photos in the field. Work with the visuals team to add more sophisticated visuals as a fundamental storytelling tool.
- Write and report on a continuous-news cycle, publishing to digital platforms as well as print.
- Use judgment in determining best digital tools for conveying news to readers in varying circumstances and formats
- Use social networks to seek story ideas, report in real time and connect with the community.
- Participate in training sessions offered and seek out learning opportunities.
Education and knowledge: College degree required. Beat-reporting experience preferred. Prior internships in a daily newsroom required.